The alliance system is a fantastic way to add diversity to the African civs. However, there is a significant imbalance in the utility of the various age up alliances. Some options like Portuguese and Moroccans are basically essential, while other options like Indians or Akan are kind of a waste. This is a major difference between the civs, with Ethiopia having so many essential age ups that it is hard to fit them all in, and Hausa having so few that it makes choosing an alliance trivial.
Some tweaks to the benefits the alliances provide and the cards they synergize with would help them become more uniformly viable and lead to greater gameplay diversity. For reference, here are the current alliance options:
The alliances that provide access to mercenaries should alter the cost of those mercenaries to be ~25% coin. That would allow it to still provide the benefit of easier affordability even if the mercenary happened to already be available.
The age up options that correspond to minor civs should have some additional benefit not generally attainable from the minor civ. One easy way to do this could be to enable relavent mercenaries. Zenata Riders for Berbers, Sennar Horsemen for Sudanese, Dahomey Amazons for Akan, etc. This would also synergize with a cost split mentioned above.
This option is okay if you’re gunning for a fast fortress since it gives coin and lets you get an aura that improves your defense. However, it tends to get sidelined by other better options.
One deficiency with this age up are the Kingdom Builders it enables. Compared to their Hausa equivalents, Ethiopian Kingdom Builders are much worse. You can spend 400 influence to construct a 150w Monastery compared to Hausa getting a 200w 200c University out of their Kingdom Builders. One way to fix this would be to alter the card Tabot to add even more coin at the expense of increasing Mountain Monastery cost.
This could be taken even further by shifting Tabot from a card to a technology and making it a precursor to Ark of the Covenant (Tabots are replicas of the commandments or ark). Ark of the Covenant could also be made more in line with Tabot by making Monasteries slowly replenish their coin instead of producing automatically. It should also add to their initial coin as Tabot does. So with both upgrades, you could have Monasteries that cost 400 wood that start off with 3000 coin that slowly replenishes (up to a maximum amount).
Tabot → Ark of the Covenant
So that Monasteries do not become useless if a Habesha age up is not selected, this upgrade path should be made a default tech. Tabot could be restricted to age 3, and Ark of the Covenant to age 5. To make room for this, Book of Axum could become the Habesha technology. This would work well with the alliance’s other tech that shifts Monasteries to a more military role.
Book of Axum
Becomes a Habesha technology. Instead of increasing their build limit and disabling their gathering, it could instead reduce their population requirement to 1. That would give it both economic or military usefulness
The upcoming changes to the Portuguese Crusaders tech are going to push it into overpowered territory. Additionally, the actual events it was based on involved a contingent of Portuguese Musketeers, not Crossbowmen. It would help cut down on complexity if this technology focused on Cannoneers instead of adding yet another unit to the Ethiopian roster.
Current: Ships Crossbowmen and enables them at the War Camp
New: Ships Cannoneers and slightly reduces their cost and train time.
The Church Organs technology (ships 1 Organ Gun per Monastery) is also very expensive for what it gives you. You have to wait until age 4 to have enough Monasteries to make it so you’re not overpaying for the Organ Guns. This could be fixed by making the card Lalibela Rock Church increase the Mountain Monastery build limit by 1.
Lalibela Rock Church
Current: Mines worked by Mountain Monasteries last 25% longer; Ships 1 Abun and Mountain Monastery Builder
New: Same as above and +1 to Mountain Monastery build limit.
Enable Sennar Horsemen and split their cost to part coin.
Enable Askaris and split their cost to part coin.
This already gives a Church, so it already is much more than just taking a Jesuit site. It could have more flavour if you could train Missionaries from the Church instead of regular Priests. As of now both Missionaries and Priests are useless compared to Abuns, but if Missionaries ever got reworked to have an ability like conversion it could give a niche reason to train them.
India is probably the worst alliance for Ethiopia. By the time you get to age 3, the natural resources that the market techs affect will be running out. The rate of shipments will also be slowed to the point where the Villager with each shipment is only a mediocre bonus. Updating their techs and cost of elephants could make them actually viable.
Current: Sends a Villager with each shipment
New: Sends a Villager and a Cow with each shipment
Compared to Hausa, Ethiopia has a much harder time getting cattle so this adjustment would fix that. Zebu cattle originate from India so it also makes a lot of sense and it would be a good excuse to update the Sacred Cow model.
The elephant units provided by the alliance are prohibitively expensive even with Good Will Agreements. Splitting their cost with another resource other than influence would go a long way to making them useable.
Based on the historic military use of elephants in Ethiopia, enabling Siege Elephants might actually be the more realistic choice (especially if Siege Elephants were made realistic). An artillery unit could also be reasonably useful for Ethiopia.
Good Will Agreements is a super generic name. Something like “Peshwa Governance” could be a more specific name that alludes to notable figures like Malik Ambar.
This age up is mostly fine, it gives goats and decent economic upgrades. The only change I’d make is a small tweak to the Irreechaa technology to make constructing Fields less of a burden.
Current: Fields reward 10 influence when built
New: Fields reward 10 influence when built and are constructed faster
As stated above, the mercenaries enabled by this alliance should have a partial coin cost by default. Yemeni Relations could be made slightly cheaper to reflect the improvement it provides being lessened.
Berbers are useful for booming with Berber Nomads. However, the Berber Ghofars tech (slows enemies near farms) is generally useless. Replacing this tech with Berber Fantasia (gives charged attack to Berber Camels, Sultans, and Zenatas). Enabling Zenata Riders at the Palace and splitting their cost would also synergize well with this technology.
This is an essential alliance for Hausa and provides excellent utility. However, the Zouaves it enables are too expensive to actually make use of. Instead of Zouaves, it should enable Barbary Corsairs (and split their cost with coin). They would be much easier to afford and would cover Hausa’s lack of heavy infantry.
The worst part of the alliance is that it’s just called “Hausa”. At least with the Ethiopian version, they used the term “Habesha” to differentiate it. It should use another name for the alliance such as “Habe”.
The Songhai Raid ability is reasonably useful, but the other techs this age up provides are comically bad. To even break even you need to kill 50 Musketeers (Timbuktu Chronicle) or mine 5000 coin (Mansa Musa Epic). Yes, these might be useful in treaty, but they should at least have some use case in supremacy.
There’s also the fact that Mansa Musa was a Malian from long before the Songhai Empire. Therefore, Mansa Musa Epic should be replaced by a new technology that references the relationship the Songhai had with the ##### river.
Fishing Boats gain a small attack, additional health, and a multiplier versus treasure guardians.
This would make Songhai a solid option on water maps and let you contest the water just with your fishing fleet. It would also let you gather water treasures much more easily.
Timbuktu Chronicle also deserves a rework to make it more generally useful. Maybe something like increasing the University build limit or generation rate to reflect that Timbuktu was a center of learning and a center of trade.
Current: receive influence equal to 10% of the cost of enemy units/buildings killed/destroyed up to that point
New: Increases University build limit, increases Trading Post contribution to +0.75, and allows Universities to be set to coin
I’m not super sure of this one, any suggestions for alternate effects?
This age up offers nothing that an Akan minor civ can’t and is kinda devalued by the card Gaananci. It should also enable Dahomey Amazons and split their cost to part coin.
It also has the tech Akan Palm Oil Exports which trades all your food for wood and coin. Hausa requires a tremendous amount of food to keep up production, so this tech is essentially useless. Instead, the Akan alliance should enable the Akan Cocoa Beans tech. Hausa lacks good cards to boost the food production on Fields, so this tech would be a great addition.
The main issue with this age up is the two very dissimilar effects being crammed into the Fulani Migrations tech. The ability to chop wood is almost inconsequential and could probably be enabled by default for this alliance. The tech could then be further strengthened by combining it with the card Fulani Invasion (which is already fairly weak for an age 4 card).
Current: Enables Fulani Archers to chop wood and gives them a long ranged attack
New: Grants a Fulani Archer for every past and future shipment and gives them a long ranged attack
This alliance is okay, and does synergize with some cards to give a strong fast Industrial strategy. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any mercenaries from the region to add on to bolster the alliance beyond what you get from the minor civ. The best I can think of is enabling a potential Leopard Prowler outlaw from the region.
The main issue I see is that there isn’t much justification for this being an age 4 alliance. If it were moved earlier, I don’t see it being unbalanced.
Bornu (Potential Hausa IV)
This isn’t actually an alliance option, but it was a regional power abutting the Hausa, so it would make sense to include it just like the Songhai are. It would obviously enable Kanuri Guards since they are from there. I’m not sure what specific technologies they should have, but it should be something strong enough to warrant an age 4 position. If another alliance needs to be displaced to fit this one, I’d remove either Akan or Yoruba.
The only issue with this one is that it locks the Arsenal to age 5. The techs it enables are so darn expensive that maybe it would be okay to just have it available for age 4 instead.